"By Aeroplane to Pygmyland" Accounts of the 1926 Smithsonian-Dutch Expedition to New Guinea

Interpretive Essays

Browse Photos and Film

Expedition Source Material

About this Project

expedition source material

Journal of Matthew Stirling
Select a Date:
Select a location/subject:
Current Date and Location/Subject:  

May 8, 1926 : Soeroei (Soeroe), Japen

May 8th

This morning I went ashore with the resident from Ternate and his secretary. We walked up the valley about a mile and a half above Seroei. There is a plot of cotton of a peculiar sort. It looks quite similar to our cotton but grows on small trees instead of bushes. Furthermore, it is not a perennial plant[,] but one tree grows and bears for years. We encountered a number of natives and saw some carrying a small bow with peculiar small arrows made from the midrib of the leaf of the sago palm. At the small end a small triangle of the leaf was left to act as a guide, the rest of the leaf was stripped off. We had a boy demonstrate and it was astonishing the distance the little arrows would go and the force with which they left the bow. Shooting upwards they would pass from sight. The Magistrate here is experimenting with the {p. 53} natives living in neat houses with yards and gardens of their own. On the whole they appear fairly clean and healthy but there are many with sores, and skin afflictions. Dick and I transferred our luggage at noon to the Fomalhout. In addition to Hans, we have as fellow passengers, the resident from Ternate and two assistants and a Catholic missionary, Pastoor Meyer, who has worked in Dutch New Guinea and vicinity for twenty years. He knows a great deal about the natives. After lunch Dick and Hans and I went ashore and bought a tea kettle, some fish hooks and line and a few trade goods - knives, tobacco, etc., in case of an emergency landing on the river. We will have with us a Springfield rifle in addition to our side arms. If no objections are offered by the Governor at Ambon we will lower the plane in the mouth of the Mamberamo tomorrow and make the first flight up the river. The radio at Pioneer Camp is evidently not yet working so there will be no radio communication with the Fomalhout when we take off. It was originally intended that the Fomalhout should wait 3 or 4 days at Seroei until the Albatross was loaded and then accompany us to the Mamberamo at the same time, the Albatross to follow behind. While this is a "safe and sane" plan it did not seem to us that it justified the big expense of keeping a ship like the Fomalhout for 4 days. It is our intention if we fly tomorrow not to stop at Albatross camp, but to continue above the rapids as far as conditions make it practicable and then return to camp. It will be all right if we don't have a forced landing above the camp. We sent our parachutes back to {p. 54} America on the Van Noort as we need the space and weight for other things. They were a big expense and it was a mistake to bring them. At 3 P.M. today the Fomalhout left Seroei and headed for the mouth of the Mamberamo. All evening we have skirted the coast of Japen and can see the camp fires of the natives burning along the shore. These fires are extinguished as our ship draws abreast. Tomorrow morning we are scheduled at the river's mouth.

CreditsPermissionsMore Expeditions & Voyages